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Gaza protest ends in bloodshed after court issues death sentence

JERUSALEM, March 10 (JTA) — A death sentence imposed by a Palestinian court has resulted in bloodshed on the streets of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian police killed two Arab teen-agers when protests erupted Wednesday in the Gaza Strip after the court handed down the death sentence in a politically charged murder case. The sentence was imposed on a member of one Palestinian security service who shot and killed an official from a rival service last month. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has the final say on carrying out the death sentence imposed on Raed Attar for the Feb. 1 killing of policeman Rifat Joudeh. Another defendant, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh was sentenced to life imprisonment, and a third co-defendant, Osamas Abu Taha, was given 15 years in jail. Joudeh was killed while trying to arrest the three, and a Palestinian boy and girl were struck by cars and killed while police were pursuing the men, who turned themselves in after a 10-day manhunt. After Joudeh’s shooting death, the Palestinian Authority said the three — who were on Israel’s wanted list — were Hamas members. But at the trial, police officials said they were members of a Palestinian security force. There are at least eight different security agencies working for the Palestinian Authority, with members often belonging to rival clans. Last year, two Palestinian security officials who killed two agents of another agency — and who belonged to a different clan — were executed, with Arafat’s approval, after a trial that lasted only a few hours. A Palestinian colonel who had been convicted of rape was executed last month by a firing squad on the night the sentence was issued. Palestinians have long complained that security officials act as if they are above the law. After the verdict against him was issued Wednesday, Attar shouted, “There is no justice in Palestine.” Members of his family later marched in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, where they protested outside the local headquarters of the Palestinian police. During a funeral later in the day for one of the teens shot when Palestinian police opened fire to disperse the crowd, family members shouted, “Keep your dogs away from us, Arafat.” Palestinian police later imposed a curfew on the town.